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After three months of waiting and wondering, basketball bettors can breathe a sigh of relief. The NBA is coming back.
The league's owners approved Thursday a 22-team format that will bring the NBA to Orlando starting on July 31, with an eight-game regular season and a potential play-in round preceding postseason play. Six of those 22 teams will be ripped tickets within a couple of weeks of the restart, but the uncertainty that comes with an unconventional format means plenty of value opportunities for title bettors.
Here are the updated NBA title odds, with five teams worth betting ahead of a July return:
|Los Angeles Lakers||+200|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+300|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+9000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+9000|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+15000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+17500|
All year, there's been a clear top tier featuring the Lakers, Bucks, and Clippers. Since the All-Star break, though, the Clippers have been far and away the best team in the league. Among the three favorites, why not grab the one with the longest odds and arguably the best makeup for these circumstances?
A four-month hiatus is exactly what the doctor ordered for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the Clippers have a deep roster to withstand what could be an elevated risk of injury after such a long layoff. Led by a veteran head coach and championship experience in the lineup, your money is safest with this group.
We wrote back in February that the Raptors were among the best values in the NBA betting market. We don't love the tightened price here, but sometimes you've got to go with the matchups. And Toronto matches up against Milwaukee as well as anyone in the East.
Sans Kawhi, this is largely the same roster that stopped Giannis Antetokounmpo in his tracks a year ago. This collective unit might even be better than last year's title group on both sides of the ball - the advanced stats suggest as much, anyway. And do you really want to give Nick Nurse a full four-plus months to scheme up his potential opponents? Watch out for the Raptors.
If the playoffs started today, the seventh-seeded Mavericks would have to face the Clippers in the first round and either the Nuggets or Rockets in the second round. Instead, they'll have eight games to jockey for the fifth or sixth seed and the chance to avoid both L.A. teams in the opening round.
That could leave a nice path for the NBA's sixth-best team by net rating, a team that features the league's most efficient offense and a healthy one-two punch of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. These odds are too long for a bona fide contender.
The Nets' price was as high as 750-1 at some shops when the NBA suspended the season, according to ESPN's Ben Fawkes. That's not a typo. But with more than four months between then and the playoffs, Brooklyn's path to a championship is decidedly clearer, and there's still value on taking a 50-1 shot.
Kevin Durant has said he wouldn't play even if the league resumed the season, but might he change his tune if the Nets have a favorable road to the Finals come mid-August? He's easily the most talented player on any of the title long shots, and pairing him with fellow injury-return candidate Kyrie Irving would immediately shake up the championship picture. This is the highest-upside bet you can make, even if it comes with enormous risk.
The Blazers have some ground to make up if they hope to earn a playoff spot, but they have the shortest odds of all the "final eight" teams for a reason. This roster is seriously overqualified for the eighth seed and provides as much bang for your buck as any squad on the board.
Injuries, especially in the frontcourt, derailed Portland's regular season. But the long layoff means big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins could both be back for the home stretch - rounding out a lineup that already features an elite backcourt. At 150-1, this is a no-brainer long shot worth betting.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.